The Capitals' slumping power play received the aid of a fluke bounce tonight to earn Washington a 3-3 tie for the second straight night with the Buffalo Sabres.
The Capitals had not taken advantage of 18 straight extra-man situations going into the third period of tonight's game. But Jean Pronovost's second goal of the period, on the power play, gave Washington its fifth road tie, fourth in a row.
Pronovost, from the side of the Buffalo net, was attempting a pass to Rayn Walter in the slot when suddenly the puck was in the net behind Buffalo goalie Don Edwards.
"I was trying to pass it to Ryan," Pronovost said. "I don't know how it got into the net."
"It hit my stick and went in off Donnie's pad," volunteered Sabre defenseman Richie Dunn.
The Sabres, who have not lost in their last nine games, again failed to hold a healthy third-period lead against the Capitals. They led, 3-0, Saturday at Capital Centre and were on top, 3-1, tonight going into the final period.
Goals by Danny Gare, Gilbert Perresault and Craig Ramsay had given Buffalo its lead after Mike Gartner opened the scoring with his 10th goal of the season in the first period.
"I think we have to look at this positively," said Pronovost, the veteran winger the Capitals acquired in the off-season from Calgary. "We came back to tie in two games. I think it's only a matter of time before this team gets the consistency it needs to be a winner."
Gary Green, the Capital coach, admitted he derived some satisfaction out of the two weekend ties.
"When you're facing a top team like Buffalo and come out of it .500, I guess you have to be satisfied," Green said.
"It's good the way we've been able to come back in the third period in the last two games. Even against Los Angeles (a 5-3 defeat on Tuesday), we had an extra-strong third period.
"This indicates to me that we're in good shape and that our players will not quit."
Pronovost's first goal made it 3-2 at 3:16 of the third period. He stopped a pass from Dennis Maruk with his skate and shot the puck past Edwards.
Then, after the Sabres' Perreault went of for holding at 4:44, the Capitals got the equalizer.
Gartner's 25-foor shot from the right circle deflected off the stick of Buffalo defenseman Jim Schoenfeld past Edwards at 3:12 of the first period. bPaul Mulvey, who made the pass after diging the puck out of the right boards, got the only assist.
Buffalo came right back for two quick goals. Gare, who had two within 10 seconds in Saturday night's tie between the teams, scored his 11th of the season on the power play at 6:38. The Sabres' captain took a goal-mouth feed from Derek Smith, who was stationed right to the left of the goal, and flipped his short shot past Mike Palmateer.
The Sabres made it 2-1 on Perreault's fifth goal at 7:59, but it was Andre Savard who made the score possible. Savard skated in on Palmateer, pulled the goalie toward him, continued on behind the net, passing the puck behind Palmateer. Perreault had not trouble sliding the puck into the net before Palmateer could get back to cover.
Buffalo managed to weather two short-handed situations to come out of the first period with a 2-1 lead. The score stayed that way until Ramsay scored with just nine seconds left in the second period.
Ramsay got his second goal of the season on a two-man break with Rick Dudley. The caps were caught with four men inside the Buffalo blue line and when Dudley and Ramsay broke out only Rick Green was in position to defend. Dudley, however, drew Green toward him, then slid a pass to Ramsay on his left and Palmateer had little chance to make the stop.
Once Pronovost's second goal tied it, Palmateer, who made three good stops to keep the Sabres off the boards most of the second period, roamed far and wide after the puck in the final minutes to preserve the tie.